Jonathan clears former NDDC boss of corruption
…Urges new board to steer clear of politics
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday said the root problem of the former board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC) was that of working at cross purposes and not corruption. He made this disclosure at the inauguration of the new board with a charge to the members to steer clear of politics.
The President expressed disappointment that the last board spent most of the time on infighting instead of sitting down to do the work for which the members were appointed. He also regretted that “the past board was camping all kinds of criminals in hotels in the name of helping politicians.”
He added that from his findings, it was deduced that selfish interest was responsible for whatever led to the quarrel that characterised the life span of the last board.
He, therefore, warned the new board to face the responsibility of developing the area rather than dabbling into politics, saying ‘stay away from politics.’
He also asked members of the board with interest in playing politics to step down now.
The new board, which is to complete the remaining two years of the last board has Dr. Terillah Tebepah as chairman while Dr. Christian Oboh as managing director.
Jonathan warned that he would not tolerate the board dabbling into politics, adding that the people of Niger Delta and indeed the entire country were not happy with the last administration and would be wrong for the new baord to incur the wrath of the people.
He also reminded the board that the history of the region was well known to all, an issue that transcended beyond Nigeria. He further charged the board to concentrate on developmental issues since it was what gave birth to the agency in the first place.
The new board, he also said had a challenge to complement the work of amnesty agency so as to manage the youths in the region, adding that the country should not wait until the youths carry arms before they attract attention. He further admonished the new board to avoid greed, which was the undoing of the last administration.
“Nigerians are very angry with the NDDC. So you are taking up responsibility at a time that people are not pleased with what is happening in that commission. I hope you will not allow the wrath of the people come upon you.
“But our experience in this board that you are to complete its tenure is quite disturbing.
“People were asked to go and see how they will use the little resources available to develop the people but there was so much of in fighting, they were fighting among themselves for reasons best known to them.
“As you take the responsibility, you will be able to know what caused the fight. I always believe that when you see people fighting unnecessarily, then there must be an element of greed in the whole thing. When you see people fighting, there must be an interest rather than the interest of the Niger Delta people, the Nigerian people, the interest of the nation and the interest of the world.
“So we dissolved that board based on the report. Initially, a lot of people called that I should dissolve the board but I felt that probably among all, one or two persons may be doing what is right. It is only proper for us to look into it properly so that even if it is one person that has been doing what is right, that person will continue.
“But when the report came to me, the recommendation was that because of the long period of infighting, I am not saying that all members of the board are corrupt. “No, not issues of corruption per se but issues of management. We’ve not been able to sit together to decide on what should be done to improve on the quality of live of the people and to develop the people.
“The feeling of the committee that looked into it is that there is no way these people can work together again and the best thing is for a completely new set of people to take over.”
“The issue is not whether somebody is corrupt or somebody has done the wrong thing. But the issue is that from their observation, stories, interviews and statements, they cannot work together and the best thing, even if you leave some behind and allow some to go, there will be some kind of reactions from those who have left.
And to make sure that the place is properly managed, there should be a completely new team and that is why from the chairman to board members and MD and the two executive directors, admin and finance and project, had been replaced,” he said.
Warning the new board against playing politics with the assignment, the president said,”if anyone of you want to become governor of your state, please tell us on time.”
He also added, “the past board was camping all kinds of criminals in hotels in the name of helping politicians. If I hear that, I will be very angry with you. You must focus on the development of the Niger Delta. You are not sent there to solve political problems. Before this time, anybody who gets into NDDC wants to be governor of a state, I want to be this; I want to be that. I am beginning to see fight between actors in the NDDC and their states. This time around, we feel that we have to select people who we don’t know their political interests because we want people who will go and develop the place”. He also warned that any member of the board who is interested in partisan politics to step down from the board.
“The day you feel you want to be the governor of your state or a senator, please let us know early enough, so that you leave NDDC and go and pursue your political career. You can’t combine the two because it is a sensitive body. I want to repeat it again; I don’t want to hear NDDC camping political thugs in Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt or any other hotel in Port Harcourt. It has happened over the period and I will no longer accept”, he said.
Jonathan further said,”the history of the Niger Delta is well known. That is why I said this is not the time for story telling. All of you are from the Niger Delta and even those of you who are members of the board who are to represent non-oil producing areas are quite conversant with the Niger Delta issues. Because Niger Delta issues are not just Nigeria issues, but of global interest.
“ Over the years, governments set up different boards to oversee the affairs of the Niger Delta people. It started with the Willis commission because as at that time, oil was not a factor but they believed from the report of the Willis commission that area is a difficult area to develop and that it needs a different approach and that was why the Niger Delta Development Board was set up. There were four interventions, the NDDC is the fourth. A body set aside especially to look into that area and see how that area could be developed.
In his reaction, Tebepah assured that the new board will face its responsibility of transforming the area.
Other members of the Board include L.E.J Konboye, ED (finance and accounts), Engr. Edikan Eshett, ED (projects), Oladele Omogbemi, Edward Orubo, Dr. Ibitamuno Aminigo, , Solomon Ogba, Engr. Imaobong Johnson, Bar. Aloysious Nwagboso, Bar. Peter Ezeobi, Dominic Aqua Edem, Osabon Imaru, Joe Jakpa, Senator Garba Yakubu Lado, Rima Shawulu Kwewum, Senator Tunde Ogbeha, Minister of state Finance and Minister of Environment.